Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

rainfall and intimations of moving

via google

via google

Although I love rain (honest), I don’t think about it a lot. Truth is, I take rain for granted. The drought in California is real for me, but it doesn’t come to mind when it rains. At least not usually.

But this week, my sister-in-law is in from California, and as the Oklahoma rains sluiced the deck, she mentioned (casually!) that she hadn’t seen rain in two years.

My heart stopped.

No rain for TWO  YEARS? Wow. And even though I spent years in the desert, a city where the international school let out one day because it rained, I couldn’t fathom it. Two years w/out rainfall. Without that fragrance — rain hitting earth. Without thunder & the igneous stabs of lightening. How can I take that for granted now?

Apropos of what Itake for granted: we’re still considering a big move, away from what has been home for more than 20 years. From the prairie to the Blue Ridge Mountains. A big move. And because I’m the major instigator, my husband reminds me of what I’m apt to not think about: how much I’ll miss my sisters, nieces, nephews. How much I’ll miss my teaching connections. Our house. Our friends here.

the author's

the author’s

So that when I am quiet, and working in my everyday world, I remember: I love my jobs. I love teaching (not grading, but it’s all part of the picture). I love the deck, even when I see how it needs refinishing, and repairs. How the tree needing pruning holds a red-shouldered hawk.

The yard — even knowing I haven’t weeded. My sisters, even when I don’t want to answer the phone because I’m in the middle of something. All the pieces of my life here, now.

It takes something out of the ordinary to help me see how beautiful the ‘ordinary’ really is. Something like two years without to appreciate four inches of rain. Or the possibility of leaving — of goodbyes — to comprehend the ineffable beauty of  today.

Look around you. Pretend, just for a moment.  Pretend that you’re going away, and this place where you are now will never be yours again. How does that shift your perspective? And doesn’t it tug — just a bit — at your beginner’s heart…? I hope so.

a Sunday meditation: happiness=poetry

poetry imageYoung poets often believe that it takes unhappiness to create ‘art.’ You must drink too much, do drugs, have a sadly aching life. Be as miserable & crazy as Poe, as suicidal as Hemingway, as dysfunctional as Sexton. Sometimes, they even hear this from their seniors.

It’s NOT true. Happiness fosters not only art, but (obviously) life. It is — and this only a perhaps — possibly easier to sit down and write if you’re already miserable, and your everyday life holds no allure. Certainly on days when the weather is idyllic, and there are birds at all the feeders, and leftovers I needn’t mess with, it’s easy not to write. But when I think of the times my life was splintered into shards & fragments, I didn’t write. I simply couldn’t.

Is sorrow ‘good material’…? Maybe. But so is joy, folks. And if you look east, to art in Asia, there is art to be made from (and found in) each element of our days.

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Yesterday was a good day (today not so much… :) ). Both my wonderful sons called — one on Skype, the other on FaceTime — and I could see their handsome faces. My perfect grandson & wonderful DIL were on view, as well. And a niece & nephew came by, and my sister-in-law is in town. Family!

So what do I feel like? Writing. Poetry. About the crows calling outside, about the way the early autumn light falls like silk across the floor. About whatever.

In other words — art does NOT require suffering. Nor does your beginner’s heart, dear ones. Happiness is just as ‘creative,’ and a lot more fun. Especially if genuine.

Now there’s a question: how do we define ‘authentic,’ ‘genuine’ happiness? Is it the transient pleasure of a perfect cup of tea? (no, even though I sometimes think so) Is it the giddy pleasure of my grandson doing the GG head wiggle we share in greeting? Again, no — despite my full heart when I see him  tossing his head left-to-right.

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Nor is it any other single thing, really — no matter how momentous. In my tentative beginner’s heart opinion, I’m defining ‘genuine’ happiness as that which wells up from a life well-lived. I’m pretty sure that even in the midst of his great sorrow over Tibet, the Dalai Lama is happy. Same for Pope Francis, again in spite of his acute awareness of the desperate poverty around the world. And of course Desmond Tutu, even though he deplores the racial injustice here in the US and elsewhere.

What will ‘make’ us happy is our own life, ultimately. Which is what these various wise leaders — and others — have said for many many years. Being kind to those around us; refusing to participate in inequity; cherishing the fragile young, old, the poor and unfortunate. THAT will ‘make’ us happy, because it becomes part of our every day, an attitude of happy, if that makes sense.

And then? Well, you can write poetry. Honest. Because happiness… well, it feeds your inner artist. And that’s more than enough.

buckwheat cornbread and learning

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

In my family, there are certain things you don’t eat w/out cornbread. It’s just not done. These would include: any kind of beans (but especially bean soup), almost any kind of soup (but especially chicken noodle or potato-based chowders), and chili.

There are more (anything Grandma or Aunt Bonnie served w/ cornbread, for instance). Suffice to say, cornbread is pretty serious business at my house. And especially when company comes.

Last night, I committed heresy. I served a variation of my mother’s cornbread recipe TO COMPANY. And I had the temerity to cook it in Great-Grandma’s cast-iron skillet!

Because the deal is, I have family (whom I adore) who have celiac disease (gluten intolerance, often very serious). And even our cornbread — which has a high proportion of cornmeal (the secret to good cornbread, in case you wondered) — still has wheat flour. A no-no for two nieces.

So I’ve been experimenting w/ gluten-free breads. I like to cook, and it’s fun. BUT… It can’t just be ‘gluten-free.’ It has to also taste good. Hence my working w/ my new favourite ingredient: BUCKWHEAT!

buckwheat hulls, via wikipedia

buckwheat hulls, via wikipedia

It’s a very old grain substitute (turns out buckwheat is neither a grain nor a cereal; who knew??). And I grew up eating buckwheat pancakes. But that was about it, until we went to Asia, where buckwheat noodles (soba) are common. I like it.

But it doesn’t cook like wheat. It needed some…reflection. Some tinkering. And since I know how to make cornbread almost in my sleep, that was a good place to start. Turns out? All it needed was more moisture, a little more fat, and a shorter cooking time. And voilà! Wonderful buckwheat cornbread! TOTALLY gluten free!

My husband was skeptical — all modesty aside, my usual, traditional cornbread is pretty spectacular. Buckwheat wasn’t high on his list of things to try. Still, he’s a good sport, and when I offered to make it last night, when his sister came in to visit for a couple of weeks, he was game to try it. It was a  HUGE success.

So: what’s this have to do w/ beginner’s heart, I hear you wondering? IF you’ve even made it this far…

Don’t let well-enough alone, folks. Don’t ‘settle,’ or become ‘that person’ who won’t play w/ his or her food. :) Seriously — what can you do, to your ordinary life, that might make it more of a gift for someone else? I know — I won’t belabour it. But think about it: who might need buckwheat cornbread in your life?


useful, beautiful, monsters

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

I confess to a love of horoscopes. At heart, I’m still the animist kid I’ve always been: all things have spirits, and all things will tell you stories. If you can understand them, they will tell you of your future.

So of course I love horoscopes — even though I know the science is pretty … well, let’s just say it’s on a par w/ climate change deniers.

But I still read it, almost every day. And weekly? I go to Free Will Astrology, because he’s funny, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and (most important) his advice is usually good for any of us.

This week, he told me to sing out “I am a useful, beautiful, monster!” to remind me the difference between useless, UGLY monsters, and the useful beautiful type. He also promised that if I sing my ‘wicked, crazy songs,’ and use my (non-existent) invisible magic sword against dread, my kind will flock to me.

You have to agree: that is an AWESOME horoscope!

I need to go through my playlists for my wicked, crazy songs. AND search for my invisible sword against dread (how valuable would THAT be?). In the meantime, as I sometimes snap at my beloved, or yell at the dogs, even refuse to answer the phone when it looks possibly problematic, it’s good to know that I’m a useful monster. I’ll debate the ‘beautiful.’ Useful is good enough.



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rainfall and intimations of moving
Although I love rain (honest), I don't think about it a lot. Truth is, I take rain for granted. The drought in California is real for me, but it doesn't come to mind when it rains. At least not usually. But this

posted 4:27:14pm Oct. 13, 2014 | read full post »

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